EPA Appointee of Breaking Law

Blackburn Accuses Biden EPA Appointee of Breaking Law

(Jason Andrew-Pool/Getty Images)

Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn has accused one of President Joe Biden's appointees to the Environmental Protection Agency of potentially violating the law by requesting the Department of Justice halt all litigation involving the EPA undertaken during the Trump administration.

The 68-year-old Republican has written to the EPA Inspector General Sean O'Donnell and Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, who also heads the Government Accountability Office — Congress' investigative arm, to probe the actions of EPA Principal Deputy General Counsel Melissa Hoffer.

Blackburn encouraged them to investigate Hoffer for ''violations of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 (FVRA) and other potential violations of ethics rules.''

''On her first day on the job, Ms. Hoffer swiftly sent a memorandum to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) requesting that the department's Environment and Natural Resources Division attorneys 'seek and obtain abeyances or stays of proceedings in pending litigation seeking judicial review of any EPA regulation promulgated between January 20, 2017, and January 20, 2021,''' Blackburn wrote in her letter.

''Ms. Hoffer electronically signed the letter in her purported capacity as EPA's Acting General Counsel. In her haste to deliver her message, Ms. Hoffer neglected to acknowledge that the Acting General Counsel role is vacant, and she only serves in the inferior role of Principal Deputy General Counsel, as confirmed by EPA's current organizational chart.''

Blackburn claimed that Hoffer would only have the authority to ask the Justice Department to take the actions she requested if she was designated as the acting general counsel, had already been confirmed by the Senate in another position at the EPA and was designated by Biden — or someone at the EPA Biden had already appointed — to the role.

''It does not appear she can hold the position through any of these three paths,'' Blackburn wrote. ''She was not the 'first assistant' when the vacancy arose; she had not been serving in a Senate-confirmed office; and she had not been employed by any other EPA component in the year prior to the vacancy.

''And, if the President has not directed Ms. Hoffer to serve as the Acting General Counsel under one of these scenarios, she may not take it upon herself to install herself into a position the Senate has not confirmed.''



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